Well, that escalated quickly: after the press overreaction to the inclusion of Gibraltar in the Article 50 bargaining position from the EU side, thought to be the result of lobbying by the Spanish Government, has come the political overreaction, as Michal Howard, who was not good enough to beat Tony Blair even as the débâcle that was the Iraq invasion was unravelling and all those WMDs were turning out not to exist, has had his say.
And it's goodnight from him
Rather than state the obvious - that Spain has not made any threat to the status of Gibraltar, despite the long-standing dispute over the territory - Howard has instead wrapped himself in the nearest Union Flag, equated Spain with the Argentina of the Galtieri junta - which was a brutal and murderous dictatorship - and summoned up memories of Mrs T sending the task force to recapture the Falkland Islands.
Quite apart from the insensitive and callous nature of this comparison - the Spanish know all about murderous dictatorships, as they had Francisco Franco’s variant on the theme until the appalling tyrant shuffled off in 1975, having to nominate Juan Carlos de Borbón as his successor after ETA had done all of Spain a great service by assassinating Luis Carrero Blanco, Franco’s hardline enforcer - this is diplomatic idiocy gone mad.
The reason why Howard would have been best advised keeping his North And South shut has to do with the British attempting, as so often in the past, to play both sides of the field when it comes to relations with other countries. On the one had, Westminster wants Madrid to lay off Gibraltar, and not couple it with the Article 50 “divorce settlement”, as it is an overseas territory, not a mere county or other appendage of the UK.
But on the other hand, our not at all unelected Prime Minister and her band of happy Brexiteers want to use the Spanish in order to cause Nicola Sturgeon and her pals in Edinburgh to desist from pursuing their dreams of independence - by threatening to veto a Scottish application to join the EU, because it may encourage those pesky Catalans.
What Howard’s desperate and clumsy intervention cannot mask - although full marks for the Falklands dead cat thrown with so little subtlety on to the table - is that Britain’s diplomatic aspirations have been rendered dead in the water. By stumbling into Ye Olde Brussels Tavern and offering the dastardly foreigners outside over Gibraltar, that will only serve to make Madrid more determined to work the issue to their advantage.
And, worse for Theresa May, although good news for Ms Sturgeon, the Spanish have confirmed what has been known for some time - that they would not veto an application for EU membership from an independent Scotland. So now we’ve tried to screw around with the Spanish and lost - twice. It’s like Cliff and Eurovision all over again.
That must be worth a slow handclap. Still, the Europhobic press will lap it up - their Spanish counterparts, as Miriam González Durántez pointed out on today’s Marr Show paper review, take a much more restrained and reasoned tone.
But good of Michael Howard to let us all know that the notion of the EU helping to keep the peace in Europe was right. And we’re still not thinking what he’s thinking.